In my early days as a young, hot-shot publisher I quickly learned not to get so crazy about flaws and imperfections or I would blow a fuse. Whether we were publishing mags, books, newsletters, seminars, workshops or websites, we always found mistakes after we hit the launch button. Then the finger pointing party would begin!
Everything has a crack and most often the people we work with are typically cracked and flawed as well.
So the 1st goal is to continuously refine and mature our communication skills so we can motivate and provoke our cracked comrades to get it right too.
The 2nd goal, is to just keep working it, improving it, and getting it closer to how we want it, until we’re finally satisfied enough to hit the “GO” button.
Important because although it should be clearly obvious by now, it’s still a good reminder that while most cracks and flaws seem like frustrating failures, they’re actually opportunities for improvement.
“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” —Leonard Cohen
You’re an exception, and rules don’t apply to you. It doesn’t matter if it’s stringing your guitar, pitching your idea, or where to invest your money. Rules just don’t apply to you. That’s because artists & treps do their best work in a perpetual state of doubt and uncertainty. Why? Because it’s our job to manifest an extraordinary experience out of nothing, not out of a common formula. That’s just the way we roll! And the only true formula for success for any pro artist or entrepreneur is the one that spontaneously comes to us from in the inner sanctity of our own creative space. Not like magic, more like inspiration that we act on.
Important because we are admired more for the way we did it, not the way we were told to do it.
Here’s what happens when reasonable minds meet:
— Nonsense takes a backseat to facts.
— Rivalry takes a backseat to respect.
— A tug to teach takes a backseat to a desire to learn.
— Winning the debate takes a backseat to resolving it.
Important because even when the most reasonable minds debate the same issue a clear resolve will always take a backseat to an even clearer choice.
“I’ll send an SOS to the world…I hope that, I hope that someone gets my, message in a bottle…” —Sting
Throughout history, creative artists and risky entrepreneurs are the only ones who have always pointed the way out of the darkness and into the light! Heck, the media won’t do that, it’s not their job! We need creatives like you to use your talent, skills and genius ideas to show us the way, and produce and launch your very best work, so that it shines brightly into the darkest corners of humanity.
Important because the challenging times we live in are inextricably coupled with a profound opportunity to use our multiple creative talents to not only entertain, but to inspire, motivate and reach out and make a difference. And now, more than ever, we need to hear your truth, roused from the depths of your soul and passionately expressed in your music, writing, performing, producing, and creative projects. Now more than ever, opportunity is starring you right in the face, waiting for you to make your move.
While it’s true that a boatload of advertising and a blitzkrieg of promotion on social media will certainly put a lot of eyes on your work, it is also nevertheless true that once the hoopla wears off and the true essence of your hard effort is revealed, the only thing that matters is:
Did your fans love it enough to share it?
Did your reps love it enough to pitch it?
Did your customers love it enough to buy it?
Did your clients love it enough to return for more?
Did your subscribers love it enough to re-up?
If not, then your strategic media blitz bombed!
Important because I think it’s crucial to get “eyes on the prize.” However, it’s even more crucial to create a worthy enough prize.
I used to write about how some folks were waiting for the tech train to slow down so they could catch up. Sorry to say, that train has left the station. A conversation about the future of showbiz is now inseparable from a conversation about technology. From the data analytics that Netflix uses to create content, to the way AI can now compose pop songs and symphonies, to the curation algorithms that point us to specific entertainment choices, which ultimately provoke us to make a purchase. Heck, I saw that a talent agency in Japan uses AI to determine what actors are the best choice for certain movie roles. That means blaming your agent (personally) for the lack of work your getting is no longer an option!
Important because the entertainment industry of tomorrow has never seemed so close to today. Question is, have you done the deep research? Are you and your reps and partners up to speed with how to promote and sell your art and commerce in today’s exponential marketplace? Are you willing to let go of how you thought the industry was operating, and shift to learning and accepting how it is operating today? I think a deeper probe into the business you’ve chosen would be a smart investment of time and energy.
I remember so clearly back in the day when the internet was just starting to beat its chest and threaten the very existence of trade magazines and newspapers. In those early days many of my cohorts and competitors were scratching their heads, worrying and wondering what to do and how to proceed with this new costly technology. I would have conversations with Tommy Noonan, VP of Billboard, and Robert Dowling, publisher of the Hollywood Reporter and we would kick around our ideas on the subject. Eventually my partner Eric and I decided to publish our magazine online for free and continue to sell subscriptions to the print edition. Plus, at the time, Music Connection was in a rosy position because we had distribution in every Guitar Center in the country! It paid for advertisers to buy ads in our paper edition because at that time there were fewer online readers and so many more print readers.
Jump ahead 30-years and that model has completely flipped. There are far more online readers and far fewer print readers. And almost every major magazine and newspaper has a paywall for the digital version. You’re teased to read an interesting article, then told to subscribe if you want to read the rest of it. Kinda like back in the 80’s when your dealer gave you a taste for free, then when he saw you had a desire for more he charged you up the nose…literally!
The lesson I pulled out of this experience was: quality dictates value and desire dictates distribution. If your art, music, product, or service has value people will buy it. However, if it’s addicting, people will sign on and pay for it ad infinitum.
Important because figure out a way to make what you offer, addicting.
Beware of the line: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
When our best effort isn’t working, many of us get impatient and begin frantically trying more of the same, again and again, repeating what has worked in the past. All that does is compound the problem and leave us stifled in frustration. It also calls into question our unwillingness as creatives to rip the paper out of the typewriter and start over!
Important because it’s not about repeating the same’ol, same’ol. It’s about trusting our talent and mustering the confidence to step out of the box, swing for the fences, and create something different, something better, something worthy.
As a result of the way things are today, many of the artists and entrepreneurs I regularly speak with are frustrated to see their staff, bandmates, set crew, actors and even their audience wearing masks again. However, frustration is a good thing because it shows you’re working hard at trying to figure out the most intelligent thing to do.
That said, frustration is also a trap, and left unchecked it eventually leads to procrastination, which leads to apathy. And once you don’t care anymore it’s not only dangerous, it also means you have forgotten, or worse yet abandoned the most important thing of all: What you’re committed to!
Important because while your waiting for the world to return to the way it was you may want to do a little soul searching and remind yourself what really matters, what you have at stake, and what you are truly committed to in your life. Not like an interrogation, more like a meditation.
I get antsy when I’m content. I start looking for something to write, or create, or design, or disrupt. It’s in my nature. And as artists and treps I assert that it’s in yours too.
While others are busy analyzing it, financing it, building it and selling it, we’re busy writing it, designing it, imagining it, and creating it. Then, most often, we disrupt it and recreate it again, over and over until we get it right. It’s who we are and how our creative “right brain” works. Not like an excuse, more like a self realization.
Important because the closer we get to understanding why we are the way we are, the freer we become to express who we are, as independent artists and entrepreneurs.
Offer these questions as sage advice to anyone you think will benefit from their profound, effective simplicity:
What must happen?
Why do you think it must happen?
How will it happen?
Who will be the one(s) to make it happen?
When will it happen?
What is the intended outcome of this happening?
Important because nothing will happen until you resolve these questions.
1) Begin to slowly include a higher caliber of like-minded people into your life. Not necessarily rich or famous or super successful. More like deep thinkers with big hearts and healthy outlooks, who are savvy, wise and aware of the new showbiz landscape, and who care deeply about what matters to them and others.
2) Re-connect with your confidence, and get puffed-up and cocky about it! Confidence is everything! It trumps resistance, obliterates self-doubt, and reinforces any argument, disagreement, negotiation, or pitch presentation.
3) Remain inside the process. When you sit or stand face to face, directly in front of the work you resist the most, inspiration fills the room and fresh ideas float around your head like bright, colored lightbulbs!
4) Invest in your personal and business enterprise by investing in the tech tools you use to make great things happen. Don’t skimp on this one. The tech tools we use today, including phones, pads, laptops, software etc. are by far the most important, essential, invaluable, indispensable items we own. Update your software and upgrade your hardware to the maximum amount you can sensibly afford. And thank God we live in a time where we have great tools to manifest our great ideas!
5) Remain aware, awake and conscious! Be vigilant that your goals, thoughts, words, actions, heart and wallet are all aligned…like ducks in a row!
Important because as a conscious, creative, aware artist/trep, you have access to a remarkable reserve of intuitive knowing. A distinct, unique insight that allows you to see beyond the mundane, directly into the heart of the matter. And the most effective “solution” to any critical challenge for a pro artist or a seasoned entrepreneur is to take a deep look at what is truly and honestly wanted and needed, and simply provide it: in your business, art, music, writing, acting, staff, reps, clients, customers, readers, patients, personal life, etc. Not like new age positive thinking, more like using your own innate abilities and gut feelings to see the truth of the matter and respond to it intelligently.
1) Conjure up a vision, notion or visual picture of what the next level looks like to you.
2) Recognize the big distinction in who you are now, and who you will become once you arrive at the next level.
3) Be conscious of the quality of work you’ll be doing and the people you’ll be interacting with once you arrive at the next level. Also, be aware of the difference you’ll be making in the lives of others. Be really clear about this one.
4) Know and accept the fact that no matter how much work and effort you put into it, your head and heart must already be at the next level before you arrive.
Important because there won’t be any big celebrations or fanfare when you arrive at the next level. You will simply be aware that things are much more rewarding and challenging than before, and you will immediately start to think “gee, now that I’m at this level, I wonder how I can reach the next one?”
Geppetto’s impossible dream was that someday, his wooden son, Pinocchio, would become a real boy, and Geppetto would become a real father. And he endured a variety of impossible challenges to finally achieve that dream, including being eaten alive by Monstro the whale!
Our impossible dreams just want to be made real too! And it doesn’t matter if we are skilled artists or seasoned entrepreneurs, we should never pull the plug on an awesome idea just because it’s too hard: “Hard” is a way of telling us it’s got plenty of potential.
We should never slam on the brakes of a praiseworthy project just because it’s too costly: “Costly” is a way of telling us it’s an investment that has value and may be worth considering.
We should never turn out the lights on our brightest vision just because it’s too “time-consuming.” Plant the seeds, add water, and let the sun shine in. You know how this works, right?
Important because we should never toss in the towel on our biggest goals and dreams just because we don’t know how to proceed. If we can’t figure out the next step, then we should consult a knowledgable cohort or hire an experienced industry coach to point the way. Don’t forget, no one has ever made it in showbiz without the help from someone else! Not even Pinocchio, because he had the wisdom of Jiminy Cricket to advise him and point the way!
It doesn’t mater if you’re a skilled artist or a seasoned entrepreneur. It is extremely frustrating and challenging these days to figure out ways to promote your art and commerce, especially with so many social media marketing choices, and so many so-called experts telling you what to do.
However, like it or not, these are the days of trial and error. These are the days of hit and miss. These are the days of experimentation and exploration. These are the days of conceiving it, building it, packaging it, and tossing it out of the boat to see if it floats!
Important because while these may be tough times for the “prudent,” who busy themselves with the process of getting it right, these are golden times for the “audacious,” who busy themselves with the process of testing new ideas, taking creative risks, and inventing new ways to get their best work out there, any way they can.
Nothing shuts up a “know-it-all” faster than Barenaked Facts.
Nothing stops procrastination faster than a Barenaked Deadline.
Nothing will take you there quicker than a Barenaked Commitment.
Nothing will keep you there longer than continuous, Barenaked Improvement.
Important because someone was brave enough (or stupid enough) to tell the emperor he had no clothes. And although that person lost his head, the emperor eventually recommitted to his destiny and changed his amateurish, narcissistic, unfocused ways and went on to become the most respected, well dressed man in the kingdom!
You stand on the shoulders of every career choice, every business decision and every showbiz relationship you ever had. You also stand tall on every success you’ve achieved, failure you’ve endured, battle you’ve won, mountain you’ve climbed and pinnacle you finally reached. Not to mention, every bond you broke, every lie you told, every dollar you stole and every soul you hurt has led you to this very moment in your independent, entrepreneurial career.
That said, for better or worse, never forget who you are at the core:
Your extraordinary talent and acquired skill to create music, write scripts, tell stories, portray characters, direct visuals, lead teams, and produce worthy and extraordinary products and services, overcomes the tug toward the same o’l, every day, unremarkable mediocrity.
Your unique youthful enthusiasm to take a risk and enjoy the thrill of grabbing on to a spontaneous idea out of thin air, then developing it, manifesting it, and presenting it to fans, clients and customers, crushes the tug to take it slow and plan ahead.
Your eager willingness to stand in front of a camera, small group or huge audience, and entertain, motivate, educate or inspire, upstages the desire for mere acknowledgement.
Your insightful awareness to recognize the high road, surpasses the impulse to take the low one.
Important because in my experience, pro artists and entrepreneurs are always smarter than they think, stronger than they seem and braver than they believe. However, with so many uncertain twists & turns and radical ups and downs in your crazy showbiz career, it’s easy to forget who you are, what you’re capable of, where you came from, and where you’re headed.
In the early days of our publishing business, when 80’s bands were flourishing, A&R departments were buzzing, terrestrial radio was humming and both Music Connection and Songwriter Connection magazine’s were peaking, my partner Eric and I were constantly being tossed all sorts of unique opportunities: record company perks, trade show co-ops, concert tie-ins, event partnerships, and even co-sponsorships with the City of Los Angeles and the State of California. And we would say YES to almost every offer that came our way. Don’t forget, all this was preceded by the “start-up” years when no one knew or even cared who we were. So when companies started offering to partner with us we felt invincible and cocksure about all the exciting opps that were coming our way.
However, as time went on and the offers of “co-mingling” continued to grow, we began to notice that not every association or partnership turned out to be mutually favorable. And after getting stung a few times, we made up a simple rule: “Wait 24 hrs. before we make a decision about ANYTHING!” Even if we KNEW we would say yes the next day, we would still wait 24 hrs. just to be sure we were making an intelligent decision, with a clear mind, free of emotion. Often it was longer than 24 hrs, and most often after giving it the extra time we would see that the situation wasn’t right for us at all.
As the years went on and we continued to build our company, grow our staff, partner with big projects, purchase real estate, etc. the 24 hr. rule became an invaluable tool to help in our decision-making process.
Important because to this day, neither one of us makes a big decision without giving it the “24 hr. rule.” And over the years this simple rule has probably saved us thousands of dollars and boatloads of angst and stress.
Your fans and followers may shrug at your latest work. But that’s much better than abandoning you.
Talent buyers may reject your music, acting, script or art. But that’s much better than rejecting the artist.
Your customers and clients may complain about your service or product. But that’s much better than saying good-bye.
The way I see it, the more you keep swing’n for the bleachers the more you will be critiqued. But that’s much better than being ignored.
Important because don’t ignore the advice from one who’s been there: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” —Steve Martin
Superman’s Fortress of Solitude was a sub-zero, unknown location just outside Metropolis. It’s where he went to learn about his past, contemplate his challenges and calculate his next move. It was Superman’s “creative space.”
I have challenges too. I have books in progress, clients to care for, groups to meet with, blogs to write, correspondence to answer and ideas to launch. However today, more and more, there are just so many time-sucking, thought-robbing distractions that steal my attention and reek-havoc with my priorities. Just like Lex Luthor, “resistance” grabs hold of me and slows my drive and weakens my will.
It’s times like these when I need to be ruthlessly committed and rigorously disciplined. This is when I remind myself of what’s most important to me. This is when I ask myself “what’s at stake?” This is when I promise myself that none of my goals will ever be achieved without my focused attention. This is when I recall what Jimmy Olsen always said to Lois Lane: “This is a job for Superman!”
Then I barricade myself in my creative space—my private “Fortress of Solitude,” where I ass-kick resistance and hunker down with my work staring me right in the face. Then I fearlessly forge head-on, directly into the path of my goals and dreams!
Important because every artist and entrepreneur needs a “fortress of solitude” where we contemplate our challenges, dream our dreams, and ass-kick resistance and procrastination!
Updated from a blog I wrote in 2016.
Ideas, solutions, innovation and transformation live in the conversations we have with each other. And if we’re talking to the same people all the time we’re likely to remain attached to our own thinking and unlikely to see other workable possibilities. And when that happens progress slows, projects stall and results creep along at a petty pace. Pretty soon another year flies by and nothing much has changed.
Important because bringing in outside thinking, or a mentor, or a thought partner moves the ball. They provide a unique POV, which always sparks creativity, ignites innovation, jumpstarts enthusiasm and offers a new perspective on challenging career choices and business decisions.
More suggests that it’s overflowing with goodness.
Better suggests that it’s a cut above the rest.
Different suggests that it’s not in the same category as the others.
The problem is, the MBD formula lives in the same box that you started with. All you’re doing is rewriting and revising that which you already created in the past—which is really the same o’l, same o’l, only with a different color paint.
Important because instead of constantly rehashing the “More Better Different” formula, why not attempt to push the envelope, follow your intuition, and experiment with what hasn’t been done before?
-Kinda like what Van Gough did with impressionism and Picasso did with realism.
-Kinda like what Dylan did when he went electric.
-Kinda like The Beatles, Alanis, Eminem, Madonna, Prince, Puffy, U2, JZ, Bocelli, Beyonce, Miles, or Spike Lee.
-Kinda like what Amanda Gorman did at the inaugural.
-Kinda like what Tyler Perry said at the Oscars.
Most of us artists, entrepreneurs and crazy geniuses are endlessly tempted and repeatedly drawn to veer off the main highway and take a bumpy ride on the road less traveled. That’s because we are beholden to a relentless inner muse who’s only purpose is to inspire us with a tempting stream of alternative possibilities, encourage us to keep pushing the envelope, and convince us that over there is better than over here. Which can often be an exciting adventure for the short trip, but a costly detour for the long haul.
Important because there’s a fix: It’s okay to say “hell no” to the spontaneous, whimsical moods of our crazy muse.
In his brilliantly written story “The Will To Victory,” master novelist Stephen Pressfield tells a story of the great Theban general, Epaminondas, who was destined to fight a great battle with the notorious Spartans, at Leuctra in 371 B.C.
On the eve of the infamous battle, Epaminondas called his weary, beaten warriors together and sadly told them that they may lose tomorrow because no army has ever beaten the great Spartans. However, he could guarantee victory if they would obey just one command, all at the exact same time, at the exact instant he issued it. His devoted soldiers of course clamored: “Yes! Yes! Tell us what you want!” The general confided: “When you hear my trumpet tomorrow, give me just one more foot. Do you understand…summon all of your strength and push the foe back, just one foot.”
The dawn came and the battle began. The two armies locked up, sword to sword, shield against shield, in the center of the fighting field. Both sides were heaving and pushing, seeking to gain the advantage. Swords were clanging, shields were crashing, and blood was spurting. Epaminondas sat atop of his black stallion and watched and waited. Endless minutes passed. The warriors’ legs were cramping, their knees gave out, but still both sides shoved and strained against each other, trying to break their opponent’s will. Finally the moment of supreme exhaustion came. Epaminondas sounded the trumpet. His warriors remembered their promise of the night before; they summoned their final reserves of strength and pushed the Spartans back with all their might, just one foot. That did it! The enemy ranks broke! The battle was won!
Important because artists and entrepreneurs fight similar inner battles of impending defeat whenever they are faced with an overwhelming challenge. It’s those gut-wrenching times when you battle toe-to-toe with an unbeatable foe or a challenging calamity that could make or break your next move. That’s the time to ask yourself: “Can I give it one, big, final push forward…just one more foot?”
More often than not pro artists and treps commit to projects that leave them stuck and trapped, and finding the door out ain’t always easy! That’s why it’s important to keep your antenna tweaked, and to remain conscious, aware and vigilant of those signs, intuitions and fleeting coincidences that tell us when it’s time to change direction, alter our course or toss in the towel.
Important because while “never quit” may be our mantra, there are times when moving on and letting go is the only real intelligent thing to do—so we can recover, regroup, reorganize and reinvent a new game.
I loved the way that gold star looked at the top of my homework or test paper. Even more, I loved the way it felt. Mostly because all through my schooling gold stars were far and few between. I rarely got one, so when I did, it really mattered a lot. It said I did something good. It said on this particular project I was smart and it made me feel like I was part of an elite group, which made me want to do better. That rare, fleeting gold star made me feel like I was okay.
Oprah said for twenty five years of The Oprah Show, during the commerical breaks, every single celebrity guest would always ask her: “Was that okay? Did I do okay?” She then upped the ante and said, “Every one of them ask me that question, with no exceptions!”
Important because all we really want, even more than money, is to be assured we’re okay, and recognized for our hard work. Just a simple “atta boy” or “you go girl” makes a huge difference. Because the truth is, those acknowledgements are far and few between. That’s why the great swamis and sages always say, “Give that which you seek.” If it’s money you want, give more. If it’s acknowledgement you want, start complementing others, and keep the abundance of the universe circulating in your life. Not like a ploy to get more for you. More like a simple “tip of the hat” to those who walk the rocky road less traveled…like you do.
“What if I Screw Up?” You’re going to, eventually, if you haven’t already. You’re going to lose money, lose fans, lose customers, lose confidence and lose the poker game. You’re also going to make big stupid mistakes, embarrass yourself in front of your friends and family, and be forced to start over. Not only that, you’re going to freeze with indecision, flinch when you should fly, procrastinate instead of progress, and invent excuses to keep moving important work to the “later” file.
This does not happen to everyone. It only happens to risk takers, thrill-seekers and those who are curious enough to venture out onto the skinny branches. Namely, artists, entrepreneurs and creative geniuses.
And you can blame the pandemic or those who propelled it, but that’s not important. What’s more important is how you fix it. What’s your recovery plan? Your rescue mission? Your fail-safe strategy? Your mea culpa?
Truth is, after your big crash, you should be stronger, wiser, more experienced and a lot closer to where you want to go. Still consumed with uncertainty, but filled with just enough crazy curiosity to take forward steps. In fact, if you’re smart, the choices you make after the darkness passes should put you ahead of the pack. And ahead of the pack is where jaws drop, doors open and hits happen. It’s also where extraordinary lives.
Important because fortunately, artists and entrepreneurs are blessed with an amazing ability to create their way out of crummy circumstances, turn failures into a life-experience, and transform a stalled career into an amazing comeback. Which is exactly what many pro artists and treps are doing right now, as the pandemic begins to slowly peter out, and opportunities in our industry begin to quickly ramp up. So release your self-doubt and embrace your self-confidence. Because you are part of the only industry on earth that welcomes you and all your faux pas with open arms. You’re safe here, to fail and succeed as often as necessary. Because the truth is, there’s work to be done…yours.
The Easter Bunny may be cute and funny, however she’s not always soft and sweet (like candy).
In the popular children’s fable, The Tortoise and the Hare, the tortoise is smart, clever, and determined to win the race. However the rabbit is an overbearing bully, who teases, torments and ridicules the slow-moving snapper, which makes the leatherback more determined than ever to devise a plan to win the race.
As the story goes, the arrogant, boastful hare is so over-confident of winning the race, she lets down her guard, allows herself to be distracted, and pauses to daydream. The tortoise however, is committed, with his eye firmly fixed on the prize. So he continues to advance, one step at a time, without allowing distractions to steal his focus, and finally wins the race.
Important because a plan of action that’s too over confident and puffed up with pride and posturing is more prone to failure. While a plan that disallows distraction, sets a diligent pace, and progresses slowly and intelligently will eventually reach the finish line.
More important because the truth is, the hare-brained Easter Bunny really is a lovable character, and does have a big heart. And if we are good, she will show us her gentle, generous side by leaving behind a sweet surprise every year.
Your plight is no different than any other successful artist or entrepreneur who constantly questions and doubts her own abilities, and who is confronted every day by the armies of distraction, resistance and uncertainty. The prudent wage earner knows that the road he’s on will lead him to a predictable destination. However, YOU walk the road less traveled. Uncertain of where it will lead, yet somehow confident you’re headed in the right direction.
Thank God every day that you chose this path in your life; the daring, independent life of a creative artist—no matter how challenging it is. Because the alternative can be an endless traffic-jam of mediocrity—no matter how appealing it looks.
Important because “The road to success is always under construction!”—Lily Tomlin
If you remain rigid, steadfast and firm, hoping there’s still enough life left in the old ways of marketing your music, promoting your art or rebuilding your business, then you probably think there’s still enough life left in your iPhone 6. Huh?
If you constantly run down the same old worn out rows of the maze, over and over, expecting that this time you’ll find the cheese, then you’re probably still under the illusion that even though all of your effort and struggle has produced bupkis, what you’re doing is still right. Huh?
Important because holding on to old world thinking and resisting the rise of a new world order will only lead to the slow, depressing decline of your business, the disheartening decay of your independent creative career, and an ego-busting, confidence crushing, humiliating shortage of cheese in your life.
Drift away from shallow projects, shallow conversations and shallow thinking. Maybe even shallow people too. That’s because there’s nothing more exhilarating then diving into the deep end of the pool where the projects we commit to test our mettle, and those honest, enlightening conversations we have with other pro artists and treps remind us that when we find ourselves slipping down a paltry, petty, pointless, time-crunching rabbit hole, we always have the choice, at any moment, to simply slam on the brakes and turn the other direction.
Important because listen to David Bowie as he whispers to us from the other side: “You should always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of. Go a little out of your depth, and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”
Outliers create worthy art and commerce out of nothing, from stardust. They create words that provoke us to think deeper, music that demands we listen over and over, visuals that we simply must share with others, and stellar performances that are worthy of multiple accolades. They also create products and services that fly way above the same o’l same o’l.
Here’s how to begin such a quest:
1. Create a clear vision of where you’re headed. However, take down the goal posts and keep the final destination open to unknown, unlimited possibilities. Back that up with a bulldog determination, and allow yourself to follow the steady tug toward curiosity. Like that time Steve Jobs said, “If you are working on something really exciting, something worthy that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed…the vision will pull you.”
2. Be crazy committed. Ruthless. No plan B. More like a knowing than a wishing. So committed that it’s effortless. Absence of doubt, with a cocky attitude. Like that time Freddie Mercury said, “I won’t be a rockstar, I will be a legend.”
3. Focus on craft. Master that one special talent or quality you have that no one else has. That raw essence of who you are and what you do. Aim for being the best in the world at that! Like that time Snoop Dogg said, “If it’s flipping hamburgers at McDonald’s, be the best hamburger flipper in the world. Whatever it is you do you have to master your craft.”
4. The best hedge against the distraction of competition (inner and outer), is to wear permanent blinders. That’s why they put blinders on racehorses. If they get distracted by who’s on the left or right they lose a step. That’s why Secretariat (the worlds greatest racehorse), never ran a race without them. That’s why Emily Dickinson seldom read other poets, except for Emerson and Whitman, saying that she simply needed to write without the distractions from other people.
5. Embrace your naiveté. Like procrastination is not even on your radar because you’re too busy progressing. Like tossing in the towel is a concept you just can’t grasp. Like that time Idowu Koyenikan said, “At the end, someone or something always gives up. It is either you give up, or the obstacle or failure gives up and makes way for your success to come through.”
6. Create work that you don’t think will make a difference, you know it will. Create work that surprises the heck out of you, and makes your insides smile. Create work that you can’t take credit for because you know it came through you, not from you.
Important because the most important part of being an outlier is an absence of formula. No rules, predicts, guardrails or manuals. Not even a net. Outliers hold on to the trapeze for dear life with their fingertips. Like that time Alex Honnold climbed Half Dome in Yosemite with just his fingers and toes; no ropes, leads or sherpas. Why would you settle for anything less? Don’t you know there is an outlier already embedded in your bones?
I know it can be frustrating, I get frustrated too. However, frustration is a sign that you’re working really hard, mentally and physically, on something worthy of your talent and deserving of your creative expertise.
I know it can be doubtful and uncertain. I mostly reside in uncertainty too. However, while certainty may point to a tried ‘n true predictable outcome, uncertainty points to alternative options and unlimited possibilities.
I know it can be costly, I’ve been there too. However, if what you’re going for is worthwhile, and if what you’re trying to achieve not only benefits you, but also everyone involved, including your fans, clients and customers, then the payoff is worth the cost, and the ROI is priceless.
I know it can be defeating, I have felt the agony of defeat too. However, defeat shows that you’re on the playing field—where victory lives. You’re not just on the sidelines hoping to get into the game.
Important because if you get stuck by one of these thorns it’s not because you were careless. On the contrary, it’s because you were reaching for a higher branch.